After 34 matches, the 2022 campaign will be remembered more for transfers than the in-season results. Toronto FC has its sights on returning to the pinnacle of MLS and to do that, changes had to be made. The off-season was not enough nor present adequate opportunities to overhaul the roster as major moves continued well into July.
In all, Toronto completed nine transfers in season-including the high-profile arrivals of Italian national team members Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
Despite the move of the front office, Toronto missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year and failed to win the Canadian Championship.
Toronto FC failed in their two major pursuits but should have the seeds for future success.
Things to Come for Toronto FC?
After claiming 17 points from their first 21 games, the Reds received some major reinforcements. Canadian international Michael Anthony-Kaye made his return to Toronto, while the aforementioned Italian duo arrived from Serie A alongside compatriot Domencio Criscito. Not long after, former Reds standout Richie Laryea made his return on loan from newly promoted Premier League side Nottingham Forest.
These acquisitions were balanced out by the departures of disappointing Designated Player Carlos Salcedo, former MVP Alejandro Puzelo, Jaccob Shaffelburg, and Ralph Priso.
The newest Reds had the intended impact and swiftly improved the first team. Following the debuts of Insigne and Bernadeschi, Toronto would go on to claim 15 points over their next eight games, finishing that stretch with an xGD of +4.1 – a far cry from the -18.1 xGD Toronto had experienced up until that point.
To the joy of fans and the front office, this solid run was off the backs of those new arrivals, who contributed 11 goals and seven assists. It was during that run head coach Bob Bradley was able to implement his preferred 4-3-3, and with the improved attack also came better defense.
Unfortunately, these eight games proved to be a sample of what could be rather than the new normal for Toronto.
After August 31st, any excitement in Toronto was heading out like Kawhi Leonard.
Not another point was in store for the Reds, as the season finished on a four-game losing streak im which Toronto was outscored 13-5. Four of their final five goals were scored by Insigne and Bernadeschi.
The xG and xGA against were friendly to Toronto, these final four games produced a -2.6xGD suggesting some unlucky moments factored in and highlighting where the wheels fell off.
Toronto's xGD should have been much closer if not largely for the performances in net at the end of the season.
Alex Bono held the starting spot for most of the season until early September, when he conceded four goals on six shots to CF Montreal. With Toronto still clinging to playoff hopes, Bradley turned to 36-year-old Frenchman Quentin Westberg who all but assured his ticket out of town, the Ligue 2 veteran promptly allowing 13 goals in four games. In total, both goalkeepers finished the season in the 44th and 20th percentile in saves, proving the need for an upgrade between the sticks.
All that being said, the backline played a role in this Toronto team's deficiencies, and is also an area in need of improvements – specifically at center back.
Yes, Toronto finished their season in miserable form and once again join their fans in watching the playoffs from home, but it's clear the building blocks are there.
In Insigne and Bernadeshi, Bradley has arguably the most talented forward duo in the league. Mark Anthony-Kaye is a critical piece and his partnership with Michael Bradley will be crucial to success. Criscito and Lareya both improved the Reds' defense on the flanks, and Lareya proved in his first Toronto stint that he can be a dynamic attacking threat. Overshadowed by their well-known teammates, young talents Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jayden Nelson, and Ayo Akinola are three individuals Bradley will be hoping to get more out of in the upcoming season.
It's worth mentiong for a team that has no reservations on spending, Toronto still posses an open DP slot, leaving the door wide open for another eye-catching acquisition.